The mezcal market still largely depends on small-scale distillation. Produced on farms, some of which are situated over 2,000 metres above sea level (San Luis del Rio), mezcal production fits naturally into the agricultural cycle, rarely exceeding 400 litres per month.
The two mezcal types
There are two types of mezcal: 100% agave and mixto. Both categories must be bottled in Mexico in order to qualify as mezcal.
- 100% agave : mainly from artisanal houses and is produced in very low quantities, 100% agave mezcal is made from just one variety of agave (‘single agave’) or from a mixture of several agave varieties (‘blend of agave’). These 100% mezcals cannot contain additives.
- Mixtos : mezcal made with at least 80% agave and 20% other sugars, often sugar cane extracts.
- Joven: more commonly known as ‘blanco’, this mezcal is clear and comes directly from the still.
- Reposado: mezcal that has been aged for two to eleven months in oak casks of varying sizes.
- Añejo: aged for at least 12 months in oak casks (maximum 200 litres in volume), it can sometimes be several years until this mezcal is bottled.
Other mezcal categories
- Miñero: this historical variety was created for the gold and silver mine workers in colonial times. Miñero, distilled in clay stills, was the most expensive mezcal at that time and considered one of the best.
- Pechuga: macerated in a vat with fruits (apples and pears), this mezcal then undergoes a third distillation. Interesting fact: during the third distillation, a chicken breast is suspended directly above the neck of the vat to extract some of the fruity notes.
- Crema di Mezcal: recently authorised, Crema di Mezcal is not necessarily made from milk or cream as its name may suggest. Its distinctive features is in Its composition; made up of fruit, dried fruit, spices and agave syrup which make it more like a liqueur.